I've seen several SF&F question comments asking the poster if what they were asking about was really science fiction. Some were (but neededmore detail), some weren't, some were edge cases.

So, as an example, I'd like to ask about one of those edge cases, the original 1979 movie Mad Max.

Although the movie's Wikipedia article uses the word "dystopian", it seems to me this use is offhand and careless with nothing to support it. Nothing in that movie couldn't have happened in 1979.

This use of "dystopian" seems to be a retcon of sorts based on the sequels, whose post-apocalyptic aesthetic puts them squarely in the SF category.

The existence of Abbott and Costello Go To Mars doesn't make Buck Privates SF. So why should Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome do the same to its progenitor?

Is MM really any different from other crime revenge fantasies of the time, such as Death Wish or Dirty Harry?

Update: There have been reponses that "there weren't motorcycle gangs roaming the desert at the time". Really? Motorcycle gangs roaming the desert randomly terrorizing civilians was certainly plausible for the time, and an expressions of fears about that particular moment.

Does an expression of people's fears about what was going on at the time necessarily make it "post-apocalyptic"? "The near future" can be a euphemism for "now".

(I accepted Valorum's answer because he showed a poster where the original movie was promoted as a projection into the future).

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    In 1979 there weren't armed gangs of motorcars killing each other up and down the highways of Australia, despite what the right-wing media would have us believe. Nor were the police operating with a "shoot to kill, licence to kill" policy, despite what the liberal media would have us believe.
    – Valorum
    Commented Mar 22, 2020 at 20:18
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    I've voted to reopen. Fury Road is a far more obvious futuristic dystopia than the original Mad Max which was intended as a "five minutes into the future" sort of setting. I think both are worthy of their own questions and answers.
    – Valorum
    Commented Mar 22, 2020 at 20:49
  • @Valorum The thing is, if there was a parody sketch on SNL (or your favorite sketch comedy show) where the actors portrayed that those things were happening right now nobody would blink an eye. Campy histrionics would feed all of the necessary suspension of disbelief.
    – Spencer
    Commented Apr 1, 2020 at 17:17

2 Answers 2


The original 1979 BBFC Rating guideline for this film gives us a pretty good indication of its suitability for this site. In short, it's a dystopia and is set in the future. Either of those would make it a solid match.

A chilling futuristic fantasy set, as the opening caption tells us, "a few years from now," in an anonymous wasteland of roadways peopled by ruthless, dehumanised gangs hunted relentlessly by the Main Force Patrol of highway police. One such patrol car, driven by Max Rockatansky (Mel Gibson), has the psychotic Niglitrider and his girlfriend down "Anarchy Road" to Their deaths in a spectacular crash into the back of a petrol tanker.

and the 1981 'Home Video' VHS box cover

enter image description here

"A gothic horror story set in Australia - in the near future.
Urban society is in terminal decay. The inter-city highways have become a nightmare arena for a strange death game between nomad bikers and a handful of young cops in souped-up pursuit cars.

  • Dig the Helvetica type on that VHS!
    – Almo
    Commented Mar 25, 2020 at 15:24
  • There was a pretty good review of this on Youtube, lots of details: youtu.be/Sv5ZGi_Pn5M?t=42 "Originally the movie was meant to be about a journalist who goes from scene to another and becomes dehumanized" Commented Mar 29, 2020 at 12:50
  • I added some text to my question because some people were overlooking some of its the subleties, but that doesn't change the correctness of your response.
    – Spencer
    Commented Apr 1, 2020 at 17:07

Mad Max is part of the Post-Apocalypse genre, a sub-genre of Science Fiction. Most other science fiction sub-generes are based on the hypothesis that extrapolation of current technological and societal trends will result in progress. Post-apocalyptic science fiction, on the other hand, is based on the hypothesis that civilization as we know it will collapse and technology will regress, possibly to a lower technology level than the present.

The Post-Apocalypse genre is IMO an integral part of the big umbrella of fantastic literature, which we call "SciFi and Fantasy" on this website. Why do we put SciFi and Fantasy under the same umbrella? Because they both deal with stories which take place in fictional worlds. Post-Apocalypse is yet another kind of fictional world.

IMO The real litmus test if something belongs on this website or not is: "Does the story take place in a fictional world which has notable differences from our world?" and "Do these differences affect the story?". In our world, there are no psychotic motorcycle gangs which rule the desert. So it is a part of fantastic literature.

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    I think, "In our world, there are no psychotic motorcycle gangs which rule the desert," is the key point.
    – Buzz
    Commented Apr 1, 2020 at 19:36
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    @Buzz - that's certainly what they want you to believe
    – Valorum
    Commented Apr 2, 2020 at 19:38

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